Monday, March 08, 2004

You call that recycling?

NYT ombud Daniel Okrent wrote about "using the same quote twice" in two stories by the same author, Elisabeth Rosenthal. Compare:
"I don't think I could vote for George Bush again when I think of the 500 people killed in Iraq and what's happened to the economy in this country," said George Meagher, an independent, who runs the American Military Museum in Charleston and said he now favors Mr. Kerry.
"George Meagher, a Republican who founded and now runs the American Military Museum in Charleston, S.C., said he threw his 'heart and soul' into the Bush campaign four years ago. . . . 'People like me, we're all choking a bit at not supporting the president. But when I think about 500 people killed and what we've done to Iraq.'"
An astute reader pointed out to Okrent that, first, the speaker's political affiliation has changed, perhaps to fit the slant of the story.

Second, there's some lazy reporting going on here. Don't want to get a new quote? Just reuse those old ones!

Third, and I think this could be the most egregious, Okrent makes it sound as if the quote had been altered. He talks of it being "in two different versions." I pray that Mr. Meagher just repeated himself during the interview, providing two different but similar quotes, and that Rosenthal didn't simply alter it to suit her story. That seems far-fetched, but I throw my hands up these days.

The paper did run a correction, which Okrent takes issue with, as well. And I agree with him. Read it here and decided for yourself.


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